Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology


Diversity is in its very definition occurs at every level of ecological organization, being regulated by external (e.g. abiotic and biotic environment) and internal (e.g. genomic structure and composition) drivers. How this diversity is expressed across ecological levels are multifold, examples of this range include changes in individual phenopytes across its life-span, in populational allele frequencies, in metacommunity trait composition, and in ecosystem functions. Considering both external (ecological) and internal (micro-evolutionary) components is, thus, essencial to understand how biodiversity emerges and is maintained. Still, how the various ecological (e.g. demographical transitions, biotic interactions) and micro-evolutionary (e.g. gene expression, genome size, recombination, sexual reproduction) processes interact is still largely underexplored.

In our working group, we identify diversification patterns and model the interplay between ecological and evolutionary processes. This later goal can be achieved by making ecological functions evolvable in our mechanistic simulation models.


Current subprojects are:

1) Ecological drivers of genome size and chromosome number in Maxillariinae - a species-rich orchid subtribe from the Neotropics. Via macroecological tools and statistical models, we aim to explore whether environmental variables and species traits are correlated with genotype characteristics. Performed by visiting PhD student Thaíssa Engel.

2) Eco-evolutionary dynamics on oceanic islands: an individual-, niche-based approach. Performed by PhD student Ludwig Leidinger.

3) Using East African Zosterops to understand speciation and eco‐evolutionary dynamics in rapidly changing environment. Performed by visiting FWO postdoc Dr. Jan Engler from the Terrestrial Ecological Unit (TEREC), University of Ghent.



  • Interactions between ecological, evolutionary, and environmental processes unveil complex dynamics of island biodiversity. Cabral, J.S.; Wiegand, K.; Kreft, H. in bioRxiv (2017). (099978)
  • Effects of time and isolation on plant diversity: testing island biogeography theory with an eco-evolutionary model. Cabral, J.S.; Whittaker, R.J.; Wiegand, K.; Kreft, H. in bioRxiv (2017). (100289)